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Think Wild rescue center caring for swan that survived a mass die off near Burns

PHOTO COURTESY THINK WILD OF CENTRAL OREGON. - Workers at Think Wild treated the swan outdoors with protective gear out of concern for avian flu.

Information in this story is provided by Think Wild.

A Tundra Swan was lucky to survive a casualty event that killed many other migrating waterfowl near Burns last week. Biologists think a lunar eclipse and snow storm may have affected the birds' ability to navigate successfully.

Last Wednesday, Nov. 9, Lee Foster, a district biologist with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Burns, reached out to Think Wild, Central Oregon's wildlife rescue and conservation center, about an injured Tundra Swan. This swan was found in the town of Drewsey, Oregon, among as many as thirty swans, geese, and other waterfowl that died during their fall migration. Area biologists are unsure what caused this mass casualty event, but Foster hypothesized that a combination of the lunar eclipse and a snow storm may have disoriented the migrating birds, causing them to fly into power lines, light posts, or the ground.

PHOTO COURTESY ODFW - Biologists believe a snow storm and the lunar eclips disoriented migrating fowl causing them to fly into wires, poles and the ground, killing as many as thirty swans, geese and other water fowl.

While most of the found birds suffered fatal or non-repairable injuries, the surviving swan could not fly but did not have any obvious injuries. ODFW contacted Think Wild to arrange for medical care, and the next morning, Think Wild Rescue and Transport Volunteer, PHOTO COURTESY THINK WILD CENTRAL OREGON - Think Wild sedated the swan and examined it for injuries.Karla Harris, transported the swan to the wildlife hospital.

PHOTO COURTESY THINK WILD CENTRAL OREGON - Think Wild sedated the swan and examined it for injuries.

Think Wild Veterinarian, Dr. Laura Acevedo, performed an exam and took radiographs of the Tundra Swan outdoors in the waterfowl enclosure, wearing masks, gloves, and surgical gowns to ensure biosecurity, as swans and other waterfowl can be carriers of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. "We found no significant fractures or injuries, but the swan does have bruising and likely soft tissue damage that will need time to heal," said Dr. Acevedo. "Think Wild will provide ample space, food, medications for pain management, and time for recovery."

Due to concerns about the HPAI, Think Wild maintains strict biosecurity protocols in the wildlife hospital and is quarantining the Tundra Swan from other avian patients. The swan has shown no symptoms of the virus. Because the casualties and injuries during the event were clearly caused by collisions with power lines and the ground, district biologists are fairly confident that HPAI is not a factor. Wildlife rehabilitators in the state are still prohibited from accepting waterfowl patients except in rare cases such as this casualty event.

Tundra Swans are large waterfowl native to North America. They spend their summers breeding and feeding in the arctic tundra in northern Alaska and Canada, and migrate south to coastal estuaries, wetlands, and large lakes for the winter. Tundra Swans are most common in Central Oregon during fall and spring migrations, and can be spotted throughout the Willamette Valley and south into California's Central Valley during the winter.

Migration routes can be long and dangerous for birds. Tundra Swans migrate long distances, sometimes traveling day and night for as much as 1,000 miles at a time. Climate trends toward larger, wetter storm systems on the West Coast during fall migration, as well as drought and habitat degradation, may affect tundra swans' population success over time. This year's quick transition from unseasonably warm fall temperatures to freezing snow storms may have contributed to this migration casualty event in Harney County last week.


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